A new advisory committee on budgets, financial accountability and efficiency in the state court system is now in place.

California Chief Justice Ronald George announced the appointment of the Judicial Council Advisory Committee on Financial Accountability and Efficiency of the Judicial Branch in San Francisco on Friday.

The committee of 12 judges, lawyers and court administrators will advise the San Francisco-based Judicial Council, the governing body of California courts.

The council administers the state court system – the largest in the nation – through its staff agency, the Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC.

The state courts have a $3.5 billion budget and 1,600 judges and more than 19,000 staff members in 58 county superior or trial courts, six regional Courts of Appeal and the California Supreme Court.

George said the purpose of the new committee is “to promote transparency, accountability, efficiency and understanding” of the work of both the AOC and the judicial branch in general.

“The structural changes in the California court system over the last 13 years have dramatically increased the demands of the 58 trial courts on the AOC,” the chief justice said.

“We expect that the work of the advisory committee will enable us to increase understanding about the needs of the state judicial branch, as well as ensure measures of transparency and accountability that are appropriate in the use of public resources,” George said.

The group will review budget proposals for the AOC and financial audits of the judicial branch and, when appropriate, will make recommendations to the Judicial Council.

Recent changes affecting California courts include a 1997 law that provided for state funding of trial courts instead of funding by a combination of counties and the state, and a 2002 law that gave the state the ownership and responsibility for repair of California’s 451 trial courthouses.

Bay Area members of the committee include Court of Appeal Justice William McGuiness of San Francisco, Contra Costa County Superior Presiding Judge Mary Ann O’Malley, San Francisco attorney James Penrod and Marin County Superior Court Executive Officer Kim Turner.

Their terms will end June 20, 2011.

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